Archive for the 'Rangers' Category

Draft Picks in the Top 100

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Fangraphs did an updated top 100 (actually 133) including recently drafted players on the list. Myworld would not be bold enough to create a top 100 including draft picks until we see them play in rookie leagues and their familiarization to the wood bats. Below are the players listed in the top 100. There is no Brady Singer even after he outdueled Casey Mize in the Super Regional game.

31. Casey Mize (RHP) Detroit
33. Nick Madrigal (2B) White Sox
57. Joey Bart (C) Giants
68. Travis Swaggerty (OF) Pirates
77. Alec Bohm (3B) Phillies
93. Matthew Liberatore (LHP) Rays
95. Nolan Gorman (3B) Cardinals
96. Jarred Kelenic (CF) Mets
97. Jonathan India (3B) Reds
98. Carter Stewart (RHP) Braves
100. Cole Winn (RHP) Rangers

If this list proves accurate this should be a nice draft for third baseman.

Top Ten Prospects from Venezuela - American League

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Venezuela has been overtaken by the Dominican Republic and even Cuba in the number of quality prospects in baseball. The political situation there has made major league scouts reluctant to travel to Venezuela. This forces Venezuelan prospects to travel to the Dominican Republic or other countries to be seen. The top ten from the American League list in 2017 did not have any top ten prospects graduate and become ineligible for the list this year. Franklin Barreto is the only player who saw significant time in the majors. Anthony Santander was a Rule V pick but did not stay healthy enough to lose his rookie status. Myworld put this list together before the season started so Gleyber Torres will obviously graduate from this list after this year. Below are the top ten prospects from Venezuela playing in the American League before the start of the 2018 season.

1. Gleyber Torres SS/3B/2B (Yankees) - Tommy John surgery last year prevented him from making his major league debut. It did not take long into the 2018 season before the Yankees called him up to fill a hole at second. He has performed well enough (.294, 10, 28) that he should stay with the Yankees all year and compete for the rookie of the year award. Last year he was number one on this list. Didi Gregorius at short and the performance of Miguel Andujar at third forces Gleyber to make his home at second base. He should hit over .300 and be a 20 plus homerun hitter in the major leagues.

2. Franklin Perez (RHP) Tigers - Franklin Perez was acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal. A right lat strain during spring training this year has delayed his season. It was expected he would miss three months but the Tigers will be patient with him. He has a fastball that hits the mid-90s but what separates him from the other pitchers with mid-90s fastballs is his control and a quality curve that freezes hitters anticipating the fastball. His change is also a pitch he can use to keep him in the starting rotation. Last year the strikeout numbers were not there, falling below a strikeout per inning. In high A he was tough to hit (.191) but in AA he was less of a mystery (.266). Expect some time in rehab at perhaps Low A or a rookie league before the Tigers assign him to their AA team.

3. Franklin Barreto (SS/2B) Athletics - The Athletics seem to like Marcus Semien as their shortstop and Jed Lowrie is having a career year playing second so Franklin will have to show even more patience this year before earning a starting spot in the major leagues. He was acquired from the Blue Jays back in 2014 in the Josh Donaldson trade. Last year he made his major league debut, getting 71 at bats but only hitting .197. This year he got a brief 6 at bat callup and did not get a hit. During his major league time his strikeout rate is above 40 percent. He shows some power with 15 homeruns last year, but his struggles making contact leave him as a question mark if that power can present itself in the major leagues. Last year he played most of his games at shortstop and committed 18 errors in 83 games. This year he is playing more at second base. He will have to wait until Jed Lowrie cools down before seeing significant major league time this year.

4. Kevin Maitan (SS/3B) Angels - Last year he was number two on the National League list. The Braves lost him to the Angels when he was declared a free agent after the Braves were found violating the international salary cap rule. At one time he was considered the top international prospect in baseball. He has grown heavier in the lower half since, turning into a Carlos Baerga type build which has lowered his prospect status. Many feel he no longer has the range to play short. Last year he made his stateside debut in the rookie leagues as a 17 year old. The reviews were mixed, but with a new organization he gets a fresh start. The Angels will start him in the Rookie Leagues once they get started at the end of the month. Where they put him will define his role.

5. Jairo Solis (RHP) Astros - The Astros signed Solis in 2016 for $450,000. His fastball has shown increased velocity since the signing, hitting 96 but sitting in the low 90s. At 6′2″ and only 160 he should gain some more velo as his 18 year old frame fills out. Last year he missed a lot of bats with an above average slider and change, striking out 10.1 hitters per nine innings in rookie ball. After some time in extended spring he was given an opportunity to pitch at Low A but in his first start retired only one batter. His second start he went five innings. He has yet to strikeout a hitter and walked five. If he continues his early season struggles the Astros may return him to the Rookie Leagues to give him some confidence.

6. Brusdar Graterol (RHP) Twins - Signed at 16 for $150,000 in 2014 he had to have Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2016 season. He returned last year and his fastball jumped almost 10 miles per hour after his surgery, hitting the mid-90s and reaching triple digits. Quality breaking pitches and good command have changed his prospect status and he has jumped ahead of Fernando Romero as having the best fastball in the Twins organization. His second year after Tommy John he is dominating at Low A (1.95 ERA) striking out more than 11 hitters per nine innings and limiting the opposition to a .192 average. Expect a promotion to High A after the All star break.

7. Thairo Estrada SS (Yankees) - A gunshot wound to the hip in Venezuela delayed the start of his season. He played eight games at AAA after a rehab in the Florida State League and only hit .152. The Yankees put him back on the disabled list in early May and he has not returned. Last year in AA he hit .301 and played a smooth shortstop. His bat carries little power but he makes good contact. The tools fall short for him to make it as a starter, but he could be used as a utility player.

8. Yohander Mendez (LHP) Rangers - Last year he was number three on the list. His fastball is not overpowering and his breaking pitches are below average. What he possesses is a quality change that makes his fastball look livelier. Last year in the major leagues he got seven relief appearances and was hit pretty hard, with not a lot of swings and misses. With only two pitches this may end up his role in the majors. This year he has returned to the rotation in AAA with less than stellar results. Hitters are hitting .294 against him and his strikeouts are not there. This did not prevent the Rangers from recently promoting him and using him in the bullpen. If he is going to make the starting rotation he must improve on one of his breaking pitches (slider or curve).

9. Samir Duenez (1B) Royals - Last year Samir broke out for power with 17 homeruns. The Royals signed him way back in 2012 and have been waiting for that. He won’t turn 22 until June 11 so there is still time for Samir to develop. While he is not fast he is excellent at running the bases, collecting 26 stolen bases in 2016. This year the Royals are having him repeat AA where his power has ticked up a little bit with five homeruns and a .451 slugging. His defense is not gold glove but it is adequate to fill the position. With Lucas Duda at first the Royals do not have a quality first baseman preventing him from getting a major league callup in September. The Royals 2017 first round pick Nick Pratto may prevent him from keeping that position long.

10. Carlos Hernandez (RHP) Royals - The Royals only spent $15,000 to sign him last year because he was 19 years old. At 6′4″ he had a nice pitcher’s frame and could whip the ball across the plate in the mid-90s. His breaking pitch was below average and he did not have much of a change but the Royals saw some future in his arm. Last year in rookie ball he struggled (5.49 ERA). Promoted to full season ball this year his numbers have gotten better (4.03 ERA). He just needs innings to improve on his pitches.

2017 Top Venezuelan Prospects in the American League

Top Cuban Prospects in the American League

Friday, May 18th, 2018

A number of Cubans have signed contracts with large bonuses but not a lot of them are seeing major league playing time. At least yet. The Dodgers have thrown a boatload of money at Cuban prospects but have gotten very little benefit from those signings. One, Alex Guerrero is now tearing it up in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

Last year a couple players from the 2017 top Cuban prospects in the American League top ten list saw some major league playing time that they are no longer eligible for the 2018 list. The top prospect Yoan Moncada is one of them. Problems making contact have resulted in some initial struggles in the major leagues, but he seems to be doing better in 2018 now that he has the starting second base job for the White Sox. The fourth rated prospect Yandy Diaz also graduated, but a lack of power at a position (third base) where power is expected has put him back in the minor leagues to begin the 2018 season. His best bet may be as a utility player. The ninth rated prospect veteran Yulieski Gurriel made it as a first baseman with the Astros, a position he did not play in Cuba. The eighth rated prospect Guillermo Heredia plays superb defense but has still not shown the bat to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder. The suspension of Robinson Cano may move Dee Gordon back to second, giving Heredia another opportunity to show he can make it as a starter.

With Norge Ruiz dropping from the 2017 list that leaves five open spots for new players to appear on the 2018 list. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects playing for American League teams.

1. Luis Robert OF (White Sox) - if the White Sox can keep Jose Abreu they could have a lineup with one third of their players originating from Cuba. The White Sox shelled out a record $26 million bonus to sign Luis. With the new international cap restrictions Luis may be the last of the big time Cuban signings. Luis has the five tools to make him a superstar. So did Yasiel Puig. What he does with those tools will determine his fate in the major leagues. His best tool is his speed with an arm that will allow him to move to right field. At 6′3″ he has the bulk to hit for power. Many Cubans struggle hitting the diet of breaking pitches they see when they get to the States but Luis showed decent contact last year playing in the Dominican League. A sprained thumb has delayed the start of his 2018 season until mid May. Last year in the Dominican League Luis hit .310 with 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts, three homeruns and a .536 slugging average in 28 games, missing a lot of time with minor injuries. Hopefully his tightly wound up body is not plagued by injuries, something that has hampered the production of Yoenis Cespedes.

2. Julio Pablo Martinez OF (Rangers) - The Rangers lost out on the Shohei Ohtani signing, but they did sign Martinez for $2.8 million. Martinez does not have the size of Robert (5′8 to 5′10″) or the 100 mile per hour fastball of Ohtani but he has a collection of speed and power that makes him attractive. His speed may be a tick faster than Robert but his arm is not as strong. His power is also short of Robert. His speed resulted in a number of stolen bases in Cuba and should allow him to stick in centerfield. If he fails in center it will send him down the same path as Adonis Garcia, a fourth outfielder who lacks the power to play corner. Julio had a career .430 slugging average in Cuba but much of his career there was played as a teenager. The Rangers have not assigned him to a minor league team as of yet. When ready he is expected to play at Low A.

3. Lourdes Gurriel 2B/SS (Blue Jays) - In Cuba the teams there could not find a position for him. The Blue Jays are also finding it difficult to fit him at a position. He started as a shortstop in Cuba but has played second and third. A lack of consistency in the field has resulted in him moving to a number of positions. Myworld would like to see how he handles the outfield where his oldest brother Yuniesky plays. Lourdes is the younger brother of Yuli Gurriel and the son of Lourdes who played on the Cuban national team that won a number of gold medals in Olympic and World Cup play. Last year the Blue Jays tried him at second and short. At short his fielding percentage was .837 in the Florida State League. This year his fielding has been more consistent at second and short, even seeing eight games in the major leagues at short and committing just one error. His bat is what teams want to see in the lineup. The Blue Jays are filled with players of famous fathers who played in the major leagues (Guerrero, Biggio, Bichette, Dwight Smith) and Gurriel is another whose father could have played in the major leagues. The power is there for him to hit 20 plus homeruns if he can show a little more patience at the plate and not swing at pitcher’s pitches.

4. Yordan Alvarez 1B/OF (Astros) - The Dodgers originally signed Alvarez for $2 million but traded him to the Astros before he ever played a game. At 6′5″ Yordan is a big guy oozing with power potential. Defensively his best position may be first base. The Astros are using him in left field. A lack of speed and arm makes that the only outfield position he would be best fitted for. Last year a wrist injury limited him to 90 games. It also sapped his power, his slugging average dropping from .658 in Low A to .393 in High A. In his first 27 games this year he was slugging .542 but a collision at third base but him on the disabled list again. Myworld hopes this does not become part of a pattern.

5. Lazaro Armenteros OF (Athletics) - He came with a lot of hype. The nickname for him was Lazarito. The hype may have been a bit exaggerated. A below average arm and lack of burner speed has put him in left. It is hoped that as his body fills out he will hit for power to fit the position. In his debut in the rookie league he did hit four homeruns and slugged .474 as an 18 year old. The strikeouts are prevalent, but he did steal 12 bases in 15 attempts. The Athletics assigned him to Low A in early May where in 10 games he is hitting .324 with two homeruns. The Athletics paid him a $3 million bonus. If he is restricted to left field his bat needs to show some power if they want to get their money’s worth.

6. Cionel Perez LHP (Astros) - Cionel was a bit upset when the Astros originally offered him a $5.15 million bonus in 2016 then reduced it to $2 million when they found problems with his elbow. Not an overpowering pitcher with a fastball in the low 90s the elbow was not an issue last year when he started 16 games. His results were rather ordinary with AA hitters mashing him at a .294 clip. The start of the 2018 season has seen different results with AA hitters flailing away at a .229 clip with a 1.59 ERA in five starts. The Astros are quite satisfied with their starting pitching at the moment so Cionel may have to wait until the 2019 season to get a major league opportunity.

7. Rogelio Armenteros RHP (Astros) - Rogelio was an unheralded Cuban prospect who signed for $40,000 in 2014. He is a crafty pitcher who relies on an above average change that makes his low 90s fastball appear faster. He also controls the plate with above average command. Since signing he has been carving up minor league hitters to a .231 average. After limiting AAA hitters to a .207 average last year in 10 starts he has not had the same success this year, getting tagged for a .274 average. His last two outings have been better, giving up just one earned run in 10.2 innings. Expect him to pitch the full season in AAA, unless injuries decimate the depth the Astros have in their starting rotation.

8. Yanio Perez OF/3B (Rangers) - The Rangers signed Yanio for $1.14 million in 2016 after he starred for Cuba in 2013 in the 18 and under World Cup. He played two uneventful seasons in Cuba as a teenager before leaving for the United States. His lack of speed restricts him to the outfield corners. The Rangers moved him to third base this year but he was injured after just three games and has yet to return. Power is what the Rangers are hoping from him. Last year he hit 14 homeruns in his professional debut at Low and High A. They won’t see that if he doesn’t avoid the disabled list.

9. Andy Ibanez 2b/3B (Rangers) - Ibanez was a star in the making in Cuba, the youngest player to make the World Baseball Classic team. The Rangers signed him in 2015 for $1.6 million after he played three years in Cuba as a teenager. His tools are not off the charts and his lack of speed and power restrict him to second base, where Rougned Odor currently plays. Even at second base his defense does not make up for what appears to be an average bat. Last year he hit .265 in AA with six homeruns and a .400 slugging average. This year he is in AAA hitting an impressive .325 with two homeruns and a .447 slugging average. If he can keep putting up those 2018 numbers that could get him a major league opportunity but it won’t be long term. There just isn’t enough there.

10. Elian Rodriguez RHP (Astros) - Elian replaces Norge Ruiz as the number 10 on this list because he has more flashy tools. At 6′4″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. His fastball zips across the plate in the mid-90s as he attacks hitters with quality stuff. At 20 years old he is also young enough to improve. The Astros signed him for $2 million last year. He was roughed up a bit in the Dominican League, walking 30 hitters in just 25 innings and getting ripped for a .313 average. He has yet to appear in a game this year but will probably begin his season in the rookie level leagues.

Predictions - AL West

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Most of the free agents have been signed so now it is time for myworld to make our Division predictions. With a number of teams in rebuilding mode many of the races will be limited. Below is myworld’s prediction for the AL West.

1. Houston Astros

Overall - They return a veteran team that only got better with the acquisition of Gerritt Cole. This creates a seven deep rotation. They led the American League in hitting by 20 points and bring all their bats back. Their pitching should be improved with Cole on the bump.

Strength - 1) Starting pitching. No team can claim a big three of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole. That trio should combine for 60 wins. Lance McCullers is a home grown starting pitcher who will slot in the fourth spot. Few pitchers were hotter than Charlie Morton at the end of the year. He will fit in the fifth spot. Waiting in the bullpen for the opportunity to start will be Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who combined for 18 wins last year.
2) Up the middle. No team has a foursome up the middle like the Astros. MVP Jose Altuve starts the machine rolling at second base. Carlos Correa is a potential superstar who reminds many of Alex Rodriguez in his glory days. George Springer moved from right field to center last year and will get most of his time there. Brian McCann may be the weak link of this group, but he still has some swag behind the plate. Those four combined for 100 homeruns last year.
3) Utility - Marwin Gonzalez is a good dude to have. He plays everywhere except catcher and spent most of his outfield time in left field. Utility players usually do not come with 23 homeruns and 90 RBIs.

Weakness - 1) Catcher. At 34 Brian McCann may be headed for the down side of his career. His defense has tailed off a little. Behind him is Evan Gattis, another weak defensive catcher. Gattis may be better off in the DH role.
2) First Base. Yuli Gurriel did a good job there last year but his best position is third or second base. He will miss the first couple weeks of the season giving the Astros time to test youngsters A.J. Reed or Tyler White. Marwin Gonzalez will probably see most of the time there until Gurriel is healthy.

Top Rookie - Kyle Tucker is having a hot spring. Defensively he may be better at center than Springer. If he continues to hit in the minors the Astros may be tempted to move him to left, taking away playing time from Marwin Gonzalez, or move him to center where Springer can return to right and Josh Reddick can shift to left.

Top Prospect - Forest Whitely. His season will be delayed by 50 games because of a drug suspension but the 2016 first round pick can be dominating on the mound. At 6′7″ with a mid-90s fastball he can be scary to face.

Expected Finish - The Astros have a lot of depth in the rotation and Marwin Gonzalez can cover almost any position if an injury should occur. Astros should take this division in a walk away.

2. Los Angeles Angels

Overall - The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Add the best player in Japan to Mike Trout the best player in the United States and you have a pretty good duo. The pitching needs to stay healthy if the Angels want to stay with the Astros.

Strengths - 1) Mike Trout. He is the best player in baseball and as long as he stays healthy enough for centerfield the Angels will be tough.
2) Shortstop. Andrelton Simmons won the gold glove last year. Many consider him the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Last year his bat came to life with 14 homeruns and a .278 average.

3) Shohei Ohtani - The Angels hope he will help on the mound and with the bat. If he doesn’t hit the Angels may try to convince him to abandon the hitting.

Weakness - 1) Starting pitching. It needs to stay healthy. Their projected rotation has no starter with more than 25 starts. Garrett Richards and Shohei Ohtani could be a potent one/two but the duo each started less than 10 times. What follows them is back end of the rotation starters.
2) First Base. Albert Pujols is not the player he used to be. With his foot problems his best position could be DH but the Angels want to start Shohei Ohtani there in between his starts on the hill. So Pujols will try his hand at first where he only played six games last year.
3) Catcher. Can’t say we are enamored with the offense of Martin Maldonado or Rene Rivera. Their defense is strong but their production on offense will be lacking.
4) Bullpen. No established closer. They may eventually settle on Cam Bedrosian, who has better stuff than Blake Parker. Blake had 8 saves last year while Cam settled for 6.

Top Rookie - Shohei Ohtani. In Japan he could blow hitters away with his 100 mile per hour fastball. When he was not pitching he could mash fastballs 450 feet. He could be the first player in the major leagues to reach double digits in wins and homeruns. He has already done that in Japan. The last player to do that in the major leagues was a player named Babe Ruth.

Top Prospect - Taking Ohtani away from the equation the next best prospect is five tooled outfielder Jo Adell. The 2017 first round pick has excellent power and speed. Eventually he will replace Mike Trout in centerfield, a daunting task.

Expected Finish - They need Albert Pujols to extend his hot streaks and Ohtani not to struggle on inside fastballs. Having the best player in Japan and the United States should give them enough wins to capture the second wild card spot and second place in the West.

3. Texas Rangers

Overall - The Rangers may have passed their prime. They appear to be in that in between spot where age is settling in at a couple positions.

Strengths - 1)Infield. Adrian Beltre needs to defy his 39 years of age and Roughned Odor must show that last year’s .204 batting average was a fluke. Joey Gallo also struggled to hit for average (.209) and will take over first base. Odor and Gallo combined for 358 whiffs. They also combined for 71 homeruns. Elvis Andrus plays a good shortstop and his 20 homeruns and 88 RBIs was just a bonus. He needs to show those numbers were not a fluke.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting pitching. Cole Hamels did not have a good year by his standards (4.20 ERA) but he will be the Rangers ace. For the Rangers to do well he needs to pitch well. Behind him you have too many question marks in Martin Perez, Doug Fister and Matt Moore. The Rangers park tends to be a hitter’s park and these pitchers should see some nasty splits.
2) Bullpen. There is no established closer. Matt Bush was not good at it last year but may be their most established closer. Alex Claudio picked up 11 saves but he has trouble retiring righthanded batters. Perhaps the Rangers will go with a platoon closer.

3) Left Field. With the demotion of Willie Calhoun this position appears to have a big hole. The Rangers may settle for a group of Shin-Soo Choo, Drew Robinson and Ryan Rua. Willie will be back up when his service time is limited.

Top Rookie - Willie Calhoun may have already been sent down but he will be back up when April turns to May. His defense in left field is a concern but his bat could be good enough for 30 plus homeruns.

Top Prospect - Leody Taveras began to show some power last year. He will probably be promoted to High A to play there as a teenager. Leody is a gold glove candidate for centerfield with the speed and patience to fit into a leadoff role.

Expected Finish - The pitching staff will give up a lot of runs and the offense lacks the power to mount a come back. A third place finish with a lot of air between them and the Angels is the best they can hope for.

4. Seattle Mariners

Overall - An offense that is too pedestrian, relying on two aging veterans and a pitching staff that saw its prime whizz past them without a playoff appearance. There is no Wow in this lineup or on the mound.

Strengths - 1) Designated Hitter. Nelson Cruz missed another 40 homerun season by one. His 119 RBIs led the American League. Whether his 38 year old bat can continue his offensive production is open to question.
2) Second Base. At 35 Robinson Cano is getting up in age. His stolen base numbers have dropped to one and his power has fallen below the .500 slugging standard of power hitters, but his production is still quality for the position.
3) Shortstop. Jean Segura is one of the better offensive performers in the American League. Last year he hit 11 homeruns.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting Rotation. Felix Hernandez having success is the key. Without him they can only bring the brittle James Paxton as a quality rotation pitcher. It is bleak behind Hernandez and Paxton with pitchers released by other teams. Hisashi Iwakuma was limited to six starts last year because of injuries and signed a minor league contract. He won’t be ready until mid-season.
2) First Base. Ryon Healy will get the first shot. He was acquired from the Oakland Athletics. There is power in his bat with 25 homeruns but Oakland traded him because they had better options. Dan Vogelbach brings little defense to the position and may be best used as DH. Mike Ford is an unproven third option who was dumped by the Yankees.
3) Corner Outfield. Ben Gamel will miss the first month of the season. With very little depth that will force the Mariners to settle for light hitting Guillermo Heredia or the 44 year old Ichiro Suzuki, whose bat speed leaves him far below .300. Mitch Haniger played well in his 96 game stretch in right field but needs to stay healthy. There is little quality behind Gamel or Haniger.

Top Rookie - Veterans sprinkle most of the positions but Dan Vogelbach could get enough at bats rotating between first base and DH.

Top Prospects - Injuries have forced Kyle Lewis to spend too many days away from the diamond. He was hoping for a healthy year this year but knee problems shortened his Arizona Fall League stint. He had five tool potential but the knee issues could limit his speed.

Expected Finish - Too much vanilla to finish any higher than third. Their farm system will also provide little help.

5. Oakland Athletics

Overall - The Athletics seem to be floating in an ether of nothingness. It is almost as if they are not trying to be good. They make trades but seem to get no advantage from these trades. Players are traded two years before they reach their free agency which does not give the Athletics a lot of use from their players.

Strengths - 1) DH - Khris Davis has slugged 40 homeruns two years in a row. His arm and glove are not strong for the outfield so the Athletics feel a move from left field to DH is best for the defense. Some players hit better when they are more involved in the field. Give Davis a bat in his hands and he will become one of the more productive hitters in the DH slot.
2) Corner Infielders - They have two promising youngsters to fill their corner infield positions in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Olson slugged 24 homeruns in just 59 games. Both players will get on base via the walk and have the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns given a full season.

Weakness - 1) Left Field. The Athletics will go with Matt Joyce who struggles to hit lefthanders, which may bring out Davis to play left field. Joyce was able to show power last year with 25 homeruns, but he has been bounced around the league. Consistency has always been his weakness.
2) Catcher. Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley bring minimal offense. This will probably be a platoon since Maxwell has trouble hitting lefthanders.
3) Second Base. Jed Lowrie has always been a backup wherever he plays. Last year he had a career year. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat his production. Franklin Barreto is a good option behind him, but he is unproven.

4) Starting Pitching. Young and lacking anyone that can be called an ace or number two starter. Sean Manaea is the ace until Puk gets called up to fill the rotation.

Rookie - The Athletics always seem to have a plethora of rookies fill their roster. Dustin Fowler appears to have won the centerfield job. Franklin Barreto must wait until Lowrie struggles or gets injured before he gets an opportunity. Watch out for A.J. Puk.

Top Prospect - A.J. Puk, the Athletics first round pick in 2016 is having a good spring. It may not take much to get him a promotion and with the injury to Jharel Cotton his opportunity may be now.

Rangers Sign Cuban Julio Pablo Martinez

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Julio Pablo Martinez is considered the next superstar from Cuba. The Rangers were able to sign the 21 year old for only $2.8 million, his bonus restricted by the recently imposed international salary caps. If he had been eligible to sign last year he may have gotten a $20 million bonus.

Julio showed some rare speed in the Cuban league, where stolen bases are not abundant. His last season there (2016/2017) he was able to steal 24 bases while hitting .333. As is quite common in Cuba his walks (52) exceeded his whiffs (30) but don’t expect that to happen once he hits stateside. His ability to make contact is a concern. He did slug .498 but most of his power was restricted to the gaps. As his body matures his power should increase. His most impressive stat was his .469 OBA, evidence that even as a 21 year old pitchers in Cuba feared him.

Julio was good enough to make the Premier 12 roster for Cuba. He did not get a lot of playing time, only eight at bats, where he struck out in five of those eight at bats. He doubled and singled in two other at bats to hit .250 and was also credited with a stolen base. Yulieski and Lourdes Gurriel were also part of that Premier 12 team.

Julio is stated to be 5′10″ but on baseball reference he is listed at 5′8″. I’d be more confident with his future success if he was 5′10″.

Prospects Impressing in Spring

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Below are some of the top prospects impressing in spring. This may not lead to a trip with the major league club in April, but it has opened the eyes of major league managers when they have a need for a player. Also, much of their production may be coming against similar minor league prospects. Myworld does know that Tim Tebow struck out on three pitches against Max Scherzer. He would be a tough assignment for any prospect.

Ronald Acuna (Braves) - He hit his first homerun of the spring yesterday and is hitting .429. The trade of Matt Kemp certainly created a nice hole in left field for Acuna but there are still a few free agent outfielders to sign.

Ryan McMahon Utility (Rockies) - Ryan is hitting .409 with one homerun, strafing the gaps with three doubles. The Rockies may not have room for him at first base but could use him in a utility role if they think they could give him the at bats.

Willie Calhoun LF (Rangers) - His defense may be short but his bat is hitting .389 with one homerun. The Rangers left field spot is open for him to win.

Fernando Tatis Jr SS (Padres) - Still a little young to see time with the Padres in 2018 but he is hitting .381 with one homerun and 8 RBIs. He has also stolen three bases in three attempts.

Franklin Barreto SS (Athletics) - He may not be hitting for a high average (.294) but his .882 slugging percentage is enhanced by two triples and two homeruns. He has scored more times (6) than he has hits (5).

Miguel Andujar 3B (Yankees) - After hitting four early in the spring his homerun pace has slowed. He is still hitting .429 with a 1.579 OPS.

Scott Kingery 2B (Phillies) - Maikel Franco is not hitting so perhaps the Phillies will try Kingery at third. He has blasted three homeruns with a .389 average and a .944 slugging percentage

Kyle Tucker OF (Astros) - His homer pace has slowed after hitting three early in the spring but a .333 average and 8 RBIs would be nice production if the Astros are in need of an outfielder.

Luis Arias SS (Padres) - Five of his seven hits have been doubles, creating a .538 average. As he has done in his minor league career he has more walks (4) than whiffs (2).

Lewis Brinson OF (Marlins) - Luis is gunning for the Marlins centerfield position with a .400 average. Four of his six hits have been doubles but he has also struck out five times in 15 at bats.

Sandy Alcantara RHP (Marlins) - Sandy is another Marlins acquisition they would like to see perform. He has pitched in two games with one start and worked five innings for a 1.80 ERA. Only three whiffs but a .235 opposition average and no walks.

Tyler Mahle RHP (Reds) - He has been getting innings (6.2) with three relief appearances and seven whiffs. The opposition has struggled with a .190 average but a 4.05 ERA could keep him in AAA.

Chih-Wei Hu RHP (Rays) - Hu has pitched three perfect innings in his two appearances. The Rays could use him in their bullpen.

A.J. Puk LHP (Athletics) - One start and one relief appearances has given him five innings where he has only allowed one hit, an unearned run and struck out four.

David Paulino RHP (Astros) - David is gunning for the Astors bullpen with his two relief appearances with five whiffs in 4.2 innings. He has only allowed one hit but walked two.

Myworlds Top 100 Prospects - 40 - 31

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Myworld continues our top 100 list.

40. Kolby Allard LHP (Braves) 5.6 - The Braves have traded for a number of pitchers who were number one picks for their team. Kolby was a number one pick for the Braves in 2015. His velocity is not impressive (high 80s to low 90s) so his command needs to be good for him to have success. Last year at AA was his first year his whiffs per 9 innings fell below 9 and his opposition average was .258, with lefthanded hitters having greater success hitting him (.292). He still kept his ERA low (3.18) relying on an above average curveball and change to enhance his fastball. Because the Braves chose to skip High A he was one of the younger pitchers in AA so his success was impressive. AAA could be his destination in 2018 or he could repeat AA. Wherever he pitches he is just a stone’s throw away from the major leagues. His lack of velocity will always make him a back of the rotation starter.

39. Juan Soto OF (Nationals) 5.62 - Injuries limited the talented outfielder to just 32 games last year. After two seasons his career minor league average sits at an impressive .362 with an OPS of .953. This could be one of the reasons the Nationals were hesitant to trade Soto. While his bat is pretty impressive his defense could limit him to left field because of a less than spectacular arm. He still has not grown into what should be impressive power. Despite the limited playing time because of injuries the Nationals should start him in High A to begin the 2018 season. He will still be a teenager when playing at that level.

38. Franklin Perez LHP (Tigers) 6.1 - The prized prospect the Tigers obtained from the Astros for the trade of Justin Verlander. At 6′3″ with the ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball, those are attributes that teams drool over with lefthanded pitchers. Prior to 2017 he was striking out more than a hitter per inning. The 2017 season saw him fall below that, though at High A he limited the opposition to a .190 average. His excellent command and plus curveball are his strengths. Getting more consistency with his change will make him a major league pitcher. The Venezuelan only started six games in AA so that is probably where he will begin the 2018 season. The Tigers have an impressive group of starters percolating up their minor league system. If they all can stay healthy it will be an impressive rotation with Franklin leading the charge.

37. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) 6.16 - The Canadian lacks velocity, his fastball sitting in the low 90s. Quality secondary pitches and good command allow him to achieve soft contact with the bats. His strikeout numbers will never be impressive but he has limited hitters to a .239 average. His big challenge is retiring lefthanded hitters, who battered him for a .269 average. The 2015 first round pick should start the 2018 season in AAA with a major league mid-season callup a possibility. His 6′4″ height gives him good downward plane on his pitches.

36. Sixto Sanchez RHP (Phillies) 6.16 - The Dominican has a fastball that can hit triple digits, which creates comparisons to Pedro Martinez because of his small stature (6′0″). The Phillies signed him in 2015 for only $35,000. Despite the velocity on his fastball he does not miss a lot of bats (6.5 K’s per 9 innings in High A). This could be because his secondary pitches are a work in progress. His command is excellent as he has yet to hit double digits in walks at any level he has played and he has only given up two homeruns in his 175 innings of pitching. He had some rough five starts in High A so myworld expects that will be where he begins his 2018 season, getting a promotion mid-season if he has success there.

35. Willie Calhoun 2B/LF (Rangers) 6.18 - The power was slow to develop early in the year. By the time the season ended he had 32 homeruns, including one in the major leagues. At 5′8″ he would not strike you as a hitter who could hit for power but he has had back to back seasons of 27 plus homeruns. Prior to being drafted he led all junior college hitters in homeruns with 31. The Dodgers traded him to the Rangers in the Yu Darvish loan. His one big weakness is with the glove. The Dodgers used him mainly at second base with a thought to move him to left field. The Rangers will try him out in left. His arm is not strong and DH is probably his best position. With a good spring he could start the season with the Rangers in left field.

34. J.P. Crawford SS (Phillies) 6.4 - J.P. is one of those players whose physical tools are impressive but the numbers fail to match those tools. The Phillies traded Freddy Galvis to the Padres at the beginning of the year to hand the shortstop job to him. The 2013 first round pick committed 17 errors at short in AAA, but none at the major league level where he played third, short and second. The bat has been a little disappointing, especially last year where he struggled to make contact. J.P. can be a very patient hitter, walking 95 times between AAA and the major leagues. There is no stolen base speed in his legs, but if he can hit and draw walks he could fill a leadoff role with the Phillies. The shortstop job is his to lose in 2018.

33. Brendan McKay LHP/1B (Rays) 6.54 - Shohei Otani got most of the publicity for being a two way player but McKay along with Hunter Greene were two players who hit and pitched in the minor leagues. McKay has a lefthanded fastball that can hit the low 90s with a plus breaking pitch. Last year he achieved six starts with the opposition hitting him at a .149 clip. His lefthanded bat has the potential to hit 20 plus homeruns. The 2017 first round pick lacks the speed to play any place other than first, DH or pitcher. He should start the 2018 season in full season ball (Low A) where the Rays will continue the experiment of letting him hit and pitch until he consistently fails at one of the skills.

32. Kyle Wright RHP (Braves) 6.6 - The 2017 first round pick is the third Braves pitcher on this list. At 6′4″ Kyle has a beast of a fastball with excellent movement that can slice the plate in the mid-90s. In his 9 starts, six of them at High A he limited the opposition to a .186 opposition average. With four quality pitches Kyle is a good fit to pitch at the top of the rotation. The Braves could have him start the 2018 season at AA but myworld suspects he will begin the season at High A.

31. Scott Kingery 2B/3B (Philles) - Scott started the season with a homer barrage in hitter friendly AA. As the season progressed his homer barrage slowed. He hit 18 in 69 games in AA then finished with 8 in 41 games at AAA. Most of his time was spent at second base, but he did play some short and third. Expect a power drop in 2018, which could make third base an unattractive spot for his pop. The second round 2015 pick is not a quality defensive player but he will not embarrass you. If Maikel Franco continues to struggle at the plate Kingery could take over for that position. A good spring could give him an opportunity to travel with the Phillies to begin the season.

Myworlds Top100 Prospects - 50-41

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Big volleyball tournament this weekend. May be our last post until Tuesday so we thought we’d whittle the Top 100 list today.

50. Jake Bauers 1B/OF (Rays) 4.36 - A sleeper pick not drafted until the seventh round of the 2013 draft, Bauers shows patience at the plate walking 70 plus times at the plate the last two seasons. His power has yet to show at the plate but he has been one of the younger players in the league level each year he is promoted. The power could come as he matures. In the meantime it sits at .412, which is not acceptable for a first baseman. He is an above average defensive player at first base but the Rays put him in the outfield for 24 games to increase his versatility. His below average arm and minimal speed makes him a liability in the outfield when that glove could be used at first base. The Rays appear to be in a rebuilding mode so with a good spring Bauers could see significant time at first base in 2018.

49. Michael Baez RHP (Padres) 4.38 - The Cuban professional league is noted for their lack of flame throwers on the island. That is because most of them have defected for a shot in the major leagues. Baez is one of those players. The Padres signed him for $3 million after seeing his fastball touch the high 90s and sit in the mid-90s. His secondary pitches need to develop more consistency (slider, curve and change) but that should come with time. Prior to signing him the big criticism was his inability to find the plate. That did not seem to be a problem in his first season stateside, walking only 8 in 59 innings while striking out 82. He also gave up 8 homeruns so he needs to learn throwing one ball to walk a batter to take one base is better than throwing down the middle and watching the hitter circle the bases. The 2018 season should see him pitch in full season ball.

48. Anthony Alford OF (Blue Jays) 4.62 - Another athletically gifted player who played football in college while he dabbled in baseball has now chosen to focus on baseball. It was expected that his tools would allow him to climb the ladder fast to reach the major leagues but Alford has had trouble staying healthy. The power and speed are there for him to make an impact offensively, possibly becoming a 30/30 player. Defensively he covers major real estate in center field, though his arm is best suited for left if he had to find another outfield position. He made his major league debut last year but broke his wrist five games later. A good spring could see him crack the Blue Jays opening day roster, but they may prefer to begin his season in AAA where he has only accumulated 12 at bats.

47. Cal Quantril RHP (Padres) 4.98 - Another son of a major leaguer finding himself on the Top 100 list. His father Paul was a reliever in the major leagues. Currently Cal is a starter who sits in the upper brackets of the low 90s with his fastball. What makes his fastball more devastating is an excellent change that keeps hitters off balance. Last year he seemed a little more hittable with AA hitters tagging him for a .296 average and his whiff rate falling down to 7.2 per nine innings. Same side hitters were particularly cruel hitting .336 against him. The Padres drafted him in the first round of the 2016 season despite Tommy John surgery preventing him from pitching an inning during his junior year at Stanford. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA and with success getting a shot at the major leagues.

46. Luis Urias SS/2B (Padres) 5.1 - Normally players start as shortstops and move to second base. Luis started at second base and showed he had the arm to play short. His bat has minimal power but he can spray the gaps. The potential is there for him to hit consistently north of the .300 barrier with the speed to take extra bases. That speed appears to be lacking when attempting to steal. In his last three years he has been thrown out 37 times with only 33 stolen bases. The skills are there for him to be a middle infield type utility player if he doesn’t make it as a starter at one of the positions. Career wise he draws more walks (153) than whiffs (135) a rarity in this day and age. After his success at AA Luis will start the season at AAA with a major league calling just around the corner.

45. Kyle Lewis OF (Mariners) 5.2 - Kyle was expected to be a special player but a devastating knee injury at the end of his debut year limited him to just 49 games last year. When playing in the Arizona Fall League his participation was cut short because of concerns with the knee. The 2016 first round pick was the Baseball America College Player of the Year with the potential to be a five tool player. Last year he only saw 21 games in the outfield so it will be interesting how his knee has impacted his speed and ability to cover ground in center. The arm is solid enough to shift to right. The Mariners skipped him to High A after 11 rehab games in Rookie ball last year. That should be where he starts his 2018 season. If the knee proves healthy he could be moved up quickly.

44. Jack Flaherty RHP (Cardinals) 5.42 - The possibility exists for the 2014 first round pick to make the starting rotation with a good spring. Jack started five games for the Cardinals last year with minimal success. Poor command (4.22 walks per nine) and a .284 opposition average resulted in a 6.33 ERA. The 6′4″ righthander has the ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball with complementary secondary pitches that should make him successful as a starter. Jack was dominating at AA (1.42 ERA) and AAA (2.74 ERA) so his major league struggles could be attributed to acclimating his stuff to major league hitters.

43. Ryan McMahon 3B/1B/2B (Rockies) 5.46 - The Rockies second round pick in 2013 played third base in his early years in the minor leagues. With Nolan Arenado entrenched there that position seems off limits. The Rockies have tried him at second and first. At second his defense is shaky but his bat could make up for his defensive struggles. He is better defensively at first base but that position is a bit crowded with other possibilities. The Rockies had to find a position for him after he hit .374 with 14 homeruns in 70 games, producing a 1.023 OPS. That got him a callup to the majors where he struggled (.158) in a brief 19 at bat major league debut. A good spring could see him win a job with the Rockies but his best bet is to go to AAA as depth and get a callup when needed.

42. Leody Taveras OF (Rangers) 5.48 - We wrote about him yesterday in the top Dominican prospect list so the following is just a cut and paste from that list. Leody has the defensive tools to be a gold glove centerfielder with a strong arm and lots of speed to cover a wide area of green. His bat should produce but Leody still has not matured into his body yet, a teenager playing at Low A. When he fills out he could become a 20/20 player, making enough contact to fill the leadoff role but also having the power to hit in the three spot. The Rangers will show patience with him, promoting him to High A next year. Ranger fans will probably have to wait until 2019 for a major league September callup and then 2020 to see him in the starting lineup more regularly.

41. Franklin Barreto SS/2B (Athletics) 5.58 - The Athletics hope Barreto makes an impact since he was one of the players they acquired from the Blue Jays for Josh Donaldson. The other players the Athletics acquired in the trade, Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin have fallen short in their return. Barreto made his major league debut last year and hit just .197 in his 25 games. He does show the ability to hit for pop and has shortstop tools but could move to second in deference to Marcus Semien. Last year he made 18 errors in 83 games at short, a little too erratic for major league purposes. His lifetime minor league average is .292 which is where he should hit once he gets more acclimated to major league pitching. A good spring could see him on the Athletics roster in a utility role but expect him to be depth at the AAA level.

Top Dominican Prospects in American League

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

You can see the 2017 list at the link at the end of this blog. The only graduates from the list were Rafael Devers, the number 3 prospect and Reynaldo Lopez at number 7. A couple players dropped off, number two Francis Martes, number eight Francellis Montes and number nine David Paulino. That leaves five repeaters and five new players added to the list, one of whom appeared on the National League list last year.

1. Eloy Jimenez OF (White Sox) - Eloy was the fourth top Dominican prospect from the National League list last year. He climbs to the top with his trade from the Cubs to the White Sox. The expectation is that when Eloy is ready he will come with 30 plus homerun power. Last year he hit 16 at High A between the two franchises, but really took off at Winston Salem with a .346 average and a .682 slugging. This resulted in a promotion to AA where his hitting continued with three more homeruns and a .353 average. A below average arm may make his best fit left field. His legs lack the speed for center, though they are adequate running the bases. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA and if he continues to rake the White Sox will find room for him in their outfield.

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B (Blue Jays) - His father was voted into the Hall of Fame this year. Everyone wants to compare him to his father. The arm is not as strong and he lacks the propensity to swing at everything as his father did. There was some question as to whether he could hang at third but he seemed to dispel those rumors showing average defense. He may not carry his father’s power, but the power is beginning to emerge with 13 homeruns between Low and High A. He has also shown patience at the plate with a 76/62 walk to whiff ratio, evidence that he has the same ability to make contact as his father, he just waits for better pitches to hit. This will benefit him as he rises up the minor league ladder, hitting AA in 2018.

3. Francisco Meija C (Indians) - Last year Francisco made a name for himself with a 50 game hitting streak and a .342 average. The numbers were not quite as glamorous as last year but he still hit .297, .352 against lefthanders. That got him a promotion to the major leagues where he struggled with a .154 average in 13 at bats. He has an arm that can stop a running game but needs to work on some of the other subtleties of the catching game, i.e. framing pitches, calling the game and preventing passed balls. He did show some power last year with 14 homeruns and a .490 slugging percentage. Since he did not play any AAA last year the Indians may start him there but if Yan Gomes continues to struggle with the bat Francisco could be called up. The Indians also worked with Francisco a little at third base, which could be another option to get his bat in the lineup and leave Gomes behind the plate.

4. Willy Adames SS (Rays) - He was at the top of this list last year but fell not because he had a bad year but the three above him had good years. Willy has the tools to play short for the Rays in 2018 and could fill that position with a good spring. His bat will hit for decent power, hitting at the lower ends of the double digits in homeruns. The gaps will be peppered with his line drives resulting in about 40 doubles per year. If he made better contact he could fit at the top of the order but he may be better suited in the six or seven slot. The Rays acquired Adames from the Tigers back in 2014 in the David Price trade and may finally be getting some reward for it four years later.

5. Leody Taveras OF (Rangers) - The first real new player on the list since Jimenez appeared on the National League list. Leody has the defensive tools to be a gold glove centerfielder with a strong arm and lots of speed to cover a wide area of green. His bat should produce but Leody still has not matured into his body yet, a teenager playing at Low A. When he fills out he could become a 20/20 player, making enough contact to fill the leadoff role but also having the power to hit in the three spot. The Rangers will show patience with him, promoting him to High A next year. Ranger fans will probably have to wait until 2019 for a major league September callup and then 2020 to see him in the starting lineup more regularly.

6. Jorge Mateo SS/OF (Athletics) - The trade from the Yankees to the Athletics resurrected his career. Forced to be moved from short to second with the acquisition of Gleyber Torres and not being promoted to AA put a dent in his prospect status. He came to life in AA with Oakland hitting .292 with a .851 OPS. Jorge has sneaky power with the potential to hit in the double digits. He has yet to come close to his 82 stolen base year of 2015 but he was 13 for 16 in just 30 games at Midland. The Yankees had given Mateo some centerfield time but with Midland Mateo played all his 30 games at short. He could begin the 2018 season in AAA but a good spring would make it tempting to put him on the major league roster in a super utility role, i.e short, second and centerfield.

7. Jesus Sanchez OF (Rays) - Jesus has the potential to be a special player on offense. Coming into the 2017 season he carried a .332 average in the Dominican and Rookie Leagues. He got his first exposure to the full season league and hit .305. The power also began to show with 15 homeruns and a .478 slugging. Jesus has the speed to play center and the arm to move to right. The offense would be better served if his production could stay in center. Next year he will begin the season in High A with a promotion to AA if he should continue to rake.

8. Miguel Andujar 3B (Yankees) - The Yankees have choices for third base. With the trade of Chase Headley they could move Gleyber Torres there or Andujar. Torres may provide better defense but his natural position is shortstop. Andujar made 17 errors there between two levels and will have to reduce that number if he wants to make camp there. Torres is also recovering from arm surgery and may need some time in AAA to strengthen his arm. Andujar has the power for the position. blasting 16 homeruns last year with 82 RBIs. For a power hitter he made solid contact hitting over .300 at both AA and AAA, including a .571 average in a seven at bat trial with the Yankees. A good spring should earn Andujar a trip north with the Yankees as their starting third baseman.

9. Albert Abreu RHP (Yankees) - The Yankees have a couple of arms with flash rising up their minor leagues who hit the radar in triple digits. Albert is one of those arms sitting in the mid to high 90s. His secondary pitches are still inconsistent but he did a better job of finding the strike zone last year. Albert can overwhelm hitters with his heat but as he rises up the minor leagues his change and slider/curve need to improve for him to be successful as a starter. Last year at High A the opposition hit him at a .252 clip with 8.13 whiffs per nine innings. At the lower levels hitters were in the low .200s with more than 9 whiffs per nine innings. The Yankees could start Albert in High A to begin the season with a mid-season promotion to AA once he finds success.

10. Domingo Acevedo RHP (Yankees) - Another Yankee arm that slices the plate in triple digits, sitting in the mid to higher 90s. Domingo also has a plus change but needs to find a consistent breaking pitch. Domingo is a little more advanced than Abreu, starting last season at High A and jumping to AA before finishing with two starts in AAA. His best work was at AA (2.38 ERA). Control was a problem for him in AAA with 8 walks in 12 innings and in the Florida State League lefthanders seemed to tag him pretty well (.316). An improvement in his slider could change that. Acevedo could see some time in the Yankees rotation next year if he has success in AAA, where he should start the 2018 season.

Rangers Saddle Up to Restock Farm System

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

The Rangers have traded a number of prospects over the years to get veteran players for their playoff runs. Also, prospects have failed to pan out such as number one prospect Jurickson Profar, who was stalled by injuries but still has not met the potential for a player considered the top prospect in baseball a couple years ago. The upper brackets of their minor league system seems a bit bare. In the past the Rangers have been noted for their international signings, but that has been relatively quiet. Below is their rather small list of prospect hovering at the upper echelons of their system.

Willie Calhoun may be their top prospect from an offensive standpoint. They acquired him from the Dodgers where he played second base. His defense at second was poor so he has now settled in left field. DH may still be the best position for him. His short, squat frame does not run well making it difficult for him to cover a lot of ground. His arm is also a bit weak. What his 5′8″ frame can do is slug balls over the fence. Put him in the lineup and expect 30 plus homeruns. After a slow start he still finished the minor leagues with 31 homeruns. Last year he hit 27. Expect him to play LF/DH for the Rangers in 2018 with Rookie of the Year candidacy in sight.

A little further down in the system is the more talented Leody Taveras. The Dominican has the glove and speed to play an excellent centerfield with an arm to fit in right. His speed should allow him to steal 20 plus bases per year as he did last year but he still needs to work on improving his jumps. The bat lacks the wallop of Calhoun but at 6′2″ inches his frame could pack on a few more pounds of muscle. Leody will start the season in High A and in September of this year will turn 20. The Rangers can still wait for his development.

Bubba Thompson was the Rangers 2017 first round pick. An athletically gifted player who played quarterback for his high school, Bubba has the potential for five tools. He has centerfield speed and a rightfielder’s arm. Improving his bat on ball contact would up the average (.257) but this was his first year of minor league baseball. He should start the 2018 season in Low A. How he adjusts to pitchers as he rises up the minor leagues will dictate the quality of his hit tool.

The Rangers made Carlos Tocci a Rule V selection. Formerly a top prospect of the Phillies, he is still young at 23. His glove is good enough for centerfield but his bat has always been a bit soft. His career slugging average coming into the 2017 season was .327. Last year he sprayed a few balls into the gap to slug .398, but still only hit two homeruns. What made him attractive to the Rangers was his career high .362 OBA and .307 average for the year. The Rangers must keep him on the roster all year or offer him back on waivers to other teams.

Ronald Guzman is a 6′6″ plodding first baseman who is too slow to fit in the outfield. In 2016 he seemed to break out of a power outage with 15 homeruns. Last year his power took a small step backwards with just 12 homeruns and a drop in slugging percentage (.434). If Guzman hopes to play first base his power needs to start developing. His defense at first is too sketchy to support any lack of pop he provides at the position.

Andy Ibanez was a heralded Cuban middle infielder given a $1.6 million bonus. The Cubans played him at second base because of his lack of range for short. The problem with Ibanez is his lack of one overpowering tool. He lacks the range to be a quality defender at second, is absent the power to be a slugging third baseman and is too slow afoot to steal a lot of bases. So while he does a number of things well, they could fall short of major league quality. His best bet may be to make the roster as a utility infielder, though they would still need another player to back up short.

On the pitching front Yohander Mendez may be their most talented arm. The lefthander from Venezuela is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s with his fastball. His best pitch is a change that elevates the velocity on his fastball. He doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses because he lacks a quality secondary breaking pitch. That could keep him in the bullpen where he pitched seven games in a September callup for the Rangers (5.11). With a good spring he could crack the back end of the rotation or become the lefthanded arm coming out of the bullpen.

Cole Ragans was their first round pick in 2016. His fastball also sits in the low 90s but he gets a lot more swings and misses with the pitch, striking out 87 batters in just 57 innings. His secondary pitches still need to be refined along with his improvement in command (37 walks) but he is set to debut in the full season leagues in 2018. The lefthander will hope to end the season in High A.

Hans Crouse was a second round pick in the 2017 draft. He was unhittable in his debut, limiting the opposition to a .109 average with a 0.40 ERA. His fastball hits the radar in the high 90s but sits in the mid-90s, the best velocity for Rangers pitchers in the minor leagues. He pitched for the United States Under 18 national team. Expect Hans to start the 2018 season in Low A.

A pitcher who could see some action in the majors this year is Connor Sadzeck. His lack of control and absence of secondary pitches makes the bullpen the best choice for him. At 6′7″ the ball rains down on the hitters, making it difficult for them to make contact (10.67 whiffs per nine innings). The bullpen also limits his requirement to face a lineup a second time in the order. A thin bullpen gives Connor a chance to go to Texas with the club if he has a good spring.